Kaka deal highlights Serie A decline

June 10, 2009

The departure of Kaka from AC Milan to Real Madrid marks the end of the Italian era in European football. Not only can Italian clubs not attract the best players in the world to play in Serie A but now, when they unearth a talent like Kaka, they can’t stop them from leaving.

Italians used to describe their Serie A as ‘il campionato piu bello del mondo’ , the most beautiful championship in the world. It was not just because Italians love nothing more than talking themselves up — Serie A was the first league in the world to sign up top foreign stars, bringing in international talent at a time when the English league, for example, stretched no further than Scotland in search of players.

Beginning in the late 1950’s when the likes of Brazilian Jose Altafini (AC Milan) and Welshman John Charles (Juventus) were among the top performers, Serie A prided itself on being the league that had the money to bring in the best in the world.

After the 1966 World Cup, where Italy was humiliated by North Korea, foreigners were banned as part of an attempt to strengthen the domestic talent base and the national team, but when the rule was relaxed in 1980, the top clubs began importing talent again and before long Italy had become the first league to truly take on global status.

Frenchman Michel Platini at Juventus led the new wave and then the biggest name of all, Diego Maradona almost single-handedly led Napoli to titles in 1987 and 1990. The great Milan sides of Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello were built around foreign stars — the Dutch trio of Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten helped transform Serie A from a league dominated by cautious and defensive teams into a showcase for the world’s best talent.

Germany’s Lothar Matthaeus and Andreas Brehme helped Inter to the title in 1989, and by the nineties, any player in the world who could be considered a match-winner was being snapped up by an Italian team.

Just ten years ago, the top teams in Serie A included players such as Ronaldo at Inter, George Weah and a young Andriy Shevchenko at Milan, Gabriel Batistuta at Fiorentina, Hernan Crespo, Pavel Nedved and Juan Sebastian Veron (all at their peak) at Lazio and the best of his generation, Zinedine Zidane at Juventus. It was the departure of the latter to Real Madrid in 2001 that suggested Spain was beginning to replace Italy as the place where the world’s best could get paid best.

Since then though, England’s Premier League, flush with television cash, has begun gobbling up players that in the past would have headed to Serie A. In the 1990’s the likes of Fernando Torres, Michael Ballack, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Didier Drogba would have almost certainly been Serie A players. Real and Barcelona in Spain and Bayern Munich in Germany have also proven stronger in the transfer market that Italy’s top teams. It would have once been unthinkable that Italian World Cup hero such as Luca Toni would choose to play in the Bundesliga rather than in Milan or Turin.

A week after Milan captain Paolo Maldini, who played with or against all those great talents from the late eighties onwards, finally hung up his boots, Kaka leaves Milan for a fee of around 68 million euros and Adriano Galliani, who runs Milan on behalf of tycoon and prime minister Silvio Berlusconi conceded the golden era of Serie A was now over: “Ten years ago Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo could have played in Italy but now no one even considers it,” he said.

That is the painful truth for Italian fans — it is not so much that Italian clubs cannot compete with Real’s occasional obscene bouts of cash-throwing that hurts but that Italian clubs are no longer even considered as likely destinations for the world’s best or most promising.

Berlusconi talked up Ronaldinho as the man who will now be the standard-bearer for Milan but the impression is that he moved to Italy after his best years, served with Barcelona, were over.

Money is the main reason for Italy’s relegation from Europe’s elite — Milan, Inter and Juventus no longer have the resources to compete with England and Spain’s top clubs. Italian clubs ignored marketing and merchandising as they presumed their wealthy owners — the Berlusconi, Moratti and Agnelli families — would take care of everything. Moratti still finds the cash but Milan and Juve now operate in the world of budgets rather than blockbuster transfer deals.

With the lack of foreign quality and top wages, Serie A has lost the sheen of glamour that once led fans from all over the world to tune in and watch. The days when Ronaldo and Zidane were face to face in an Inter-Juve match, with a supporting cast of quality Italians and exciting foreign players, is over. Does anyone watch Serie A on satellite or cable anymore?

The proof that this really is the end of an era is the way that the Italian media and fans have just shrugged their shoulders at the departure of Kaka. They know they cannot turn down offers of that size — offers their own teams used to make every summer.

KAKA: Kaka attends Brazilian training at Arruda stadium in Recife, northeastern Brazil, June 8, 2009. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

ZIDANE: Zinedine Zidane shows his Juventus shirt at a news conference announcing his move to Turin, July 3, 1996. REUTERS/Claudio Papi


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Kaka’s transfer might be a ‘Real’ shock for the rossoneri but I think they should be the last people to wipe tears simply because the move may serve to expose Ronaldinho much more.

Personally, I feel the buck-toothed Brazilian is a phenomeon when he bears the whole team on his shoulders. Few people can argue with this, trust me. A dip in form does happen and I admit Ronaldinho has been extensively out of the picture. On the other hand I beleive that the lack of focus on him will serve to spur him back into the limelight – and this time the attention will not be focused on his nightlife or waistline but rather on sterling performances on the pitch.

I can hardly wait for the next European season to begin. Though I’m Barcelona through and through (and was extremely saddened by the 10R’s departure) I really relish the prospects of what the future holds. Finally, and hopefully, I expect that the might of Spanish and Italian soccer will eclipse the English format – an issue whose confirmation began with the consummate demolition of the Red devils by the impeccable Blaugrana.

Speaking of the Blaugrana, one of the guys that has really shone for me has to be the immaculate Yahya Toure. In my mind he was the mainstay of the team especially with his versatilty in the latter games of last season’s campaign. When he plays in his rightful position in the middle of the pitch his devastating efficacy is really brought to the fore. Joan Laporta – you hear me? This guy just can’t be sold!

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obviously Serie A is in decline and if Ibrahimovic leaves as well, both the best two players going with a few days would look disastrous. But for Milan and Inter it might just be the regeneration they need to challenge in Europe again.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

Just reading that Setanta could go under. I’m wondering if the looming financial crisis in football might actually level the playing field for Serie A and put them back into the hunt for the best players in the world again…

Posted by Bestplayerintheworld | Report as abusive

[…] The departure of Kaka from AC Milan to Real Madrid marks the end of the Italian era in European football. Not only can Italian clubs not attract the best players in the world to play in Serie A but now, when they unearth a talent like Kaka, they can’t stop them from leaving. […]

Posted by Demanly » Blog Archive » Kaka deal highlights Serie A decline | Report as abusive

I’m an A.C.Milan fan.
We didn’t shrug our shoulders at the departure of Kaka!!!
we were shocked about that!
We protested a lot, a lot, a lot!!
A large number of supporters are not gonna do the seasonal ticket because of this transfer!

Posted by Matt | Report as abusive

Does the exit of C. Ronaldo highlight the decline of the EPL?

Posted by Vinny | Report as abusive

We have to remember the impact of the calciopoli scandal a couple years ago (2006). Milan and Juventus, 2 of the the league’s traditional powers were forced to miss out the revenue that comes from finishing at or near the top of the league (which they undoubtedly would have done) and the extra-lucrative champions league births that come with it.

The Kaka sale is a combination of the club selling it’s top asset at his peak value and trying to make up the shortfall that came with their absence from the Champions League for that season (or 2?).

I don’t agree that the league is in decline. The football is still great and the coaching and facilities (at the top clubs) are every bit as good as those in England and Spain.

Posted by Marcus O’Mard | Report as abusive

I guess the EPL is in decline too now…I mean Ronaldo is leaving.

The Italian league is not in decline at all. Fact is, Italy is sitting on probably it’s most talented crop of youth players in a generation. It would be very foolish to write Serie A off.

Posted by jack | Report as abusive

it’s true Jack that there are good youngsters like Santon, Giovinco etc in Serie A but if Ibra follows Kaka out the door I couldn’t honestly tell you who was the best remaining player in Italy….it would probably be Inter’s Maicon – a right back

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Posted by ¿Podrá Diego darle brillo a la Serie A? : comentariodeportivo.com Blog de Deportes | Report as abusive

Mark, that’s a ridiculous comment. Serie A is still populated by players like Pato, Pirlo, Balotelli, Zarate, Totti, Diego, Lavezzi, Hamsik, Cavani, Jovetic and many others…and that’s off the top of my head. Not to mention young Italian players like the Giovincos and Santons that you mentioned. Kaka’s departure doesn’t signal the end of anything, much the same way that Zidane’s departure didn’t signal the end of anything back then too. In fact, I think Milan will do better next year than this one…

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

Every era that ends, starts another one… So get ready Italian football will rise up again.

But the article is so wrong, one of the comentators marked exactly “So with the departure of Ronaldo ends and the Premier League Era?”

No sense of feeling the wind of changes by the author.

So much Englishism in this post…

Posted by Milanista | Report as abusive

pure garbage, ronaldo has now left the premir league, as for gerrad and co, serie a has its equivelents; de rossi, cambiasso, sissoko.

Oh and I suppose Diego signing for Juve is just totally ignored right ?

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